Warnings: Language; spoilers up to My Bloody Valentine
Disclaimer: I do not own them; make no money from them.
Author's Note: Thanks Alaina for the beta; thanks Sheila for the advice.
"Are you sure about this?" the old Wiccan woman eyed the two young men standing in front of her. They both nodded, though the taller of the two swallowed nervously and wouldn't hold her gaze. She felt the undercurrent of his fear as it ebbed and flowed through his body, but the strength of his conviction and the faith in his brother kept the emotions channeled. The brother, shorter by enough, kept his feelings buried deep but she felt a shimmer in the depth and knew he was just as worried. Desperation bled from their pores and she turned her gaze away. "And what about you?" She asked the older grizzled guy sitting in a wheelchair and watching them from his porch. They stood outside his house on the gravel of his scrap yard. "Are you as sure?"
Bobby Singer snorted loudly, removed his baseball cap and rubbed a fist across the top of his head. His worry was easy to feel and she knew he cared for these youngsters as his own. "I think it's a stupid ass idea-"
"Bobby," Dean Winchester started but the older hunter cut him off.
"But if this buys us some time…"
"Or breathing room," the one called Sam added quietly. The woman turned her attention back to him, her empathy softening the creases in her old face. His spirit was flagging and heavy laden. Even if this did not accomplish what the young ones hoped it would, it might give his waning Aether the strength to see this through.
She didn't know what 'this' was really, the three men being tightlipped at best, but she could pick up enough on the taint from Dean's own wearied soul and the dread skirting Bobby to know it was something these men needed to win. And even if she had not met them or been called in to return a favor for her own long dead mother, there was enough unrest in the cosmos for her to not be ignorant to the evil that newly crept among them.
"… then it's worth a shot." Bobby finished.
"Okay then." It wasn't that this could not be reversed however if the subject was unwilling then it could be unpleasantly more traumatic. "Samuel," she addressed the tall hunter by his Christian name, needing to know him in fullness for the workings to be successful. She held out her hand to him, "walk with me."
Sam seemed hesitant but after a moment, he took her hand. She could feel the heat in his skin and offered him a small smile as she led him away from his family. She had prepared a sacred circle out of sight to perform the ritual, offering him some privacy and time to adjust in the aftermath.
"Wait a sec-" Dean called after them. Unhappiness hardened his voice. "Where are you taking him?" She heard the crunch of gravel under his feet as he started to follow.
"It is okay," she promised without looking back. "He will be safe."
"Dean," Bobby's voice halted the worried brother.
The old witch tuned their conversation out as she continued to lead Samuel away.
"I don't like this for one minute," Dean paced at the foot of the porch. "What if something happens?" Sam and the old woman had been gone nearly ten minutes now and it was killing Dean to sit here and wait. Not that he was really sitting.
Bobby watched him. "Something is going to happen."
Dean stopped and skewered him with a black look.
The older man was not fazed. "Look Dean, think of it this way – if this was you, would you want me and Sam standing there gawking at you?"
"Well, no, of course not," Dean immediately scoffed. "But this is different."
"Because it's Sam!"
Something hardened on Bobby's face. The hunter's fingers tightened against the arms of the wheelchair. "Because you still don't trust him? Is that it?"
"What?" Dean stared at the other man in shock. "No! Of course not. That's got nothing to do with it."
"Do you trust him?" Bobby demanded.
"I-" Dean faltered but was saved from answering when he saw the old woman walking towards them. His eyes darted anxiously for any sign of his brother. "Well?" he demanded, fear thudding his heart hard in his chest. "Did it work?"
"Of course," the crone smiled. She stepped out of the way and Dean tried to prepare himself for what he was about to see.
But as he and Bobby got their first look, they realized they'd never stood a chance.
Sam was –
Sam was a horse?
"Oh shit," Dean whispered, rubbed his eyes, then looked again. Things didn't change. His brother was still a tall, jet black horse with a thick mane and tail and a small white star in the middle of his forehead. Behind him Bobby let out a low whistle.
"Damn, boy," he murmured.
And Sam heard if the way the small erect ears atop the proud head twitched then faced forward again.
"Uh?" Dean indicated his brother with his hands as he continued to stare. "But?" He was in shock. "I thought he was supposed to be a dog or cat or something…"
"He's 'or something' already," Bobby muttered unhelpfully, his own eyes just as fixed on the younger Winchester who shifted from hoof to hoof, suddenly skittish.
"He is what he is supposed to be," the old woman supplied cryptically. She reached back to pat the graceful neck consolingly. Sam bobbed his head in appreciation. "A horse."
Dean sank down to sit on the edge of the porch, his eyes still glued to his brother. When they'd come up with this cockamamie idea to keep Sam safe from Lucifer by bewitching his body into another form, this wasn't what Dean had in mind. A dog, or even a cat, could ride in the Impala with him as they continued their quest to stop the apocalypse – and Dean had even been teasing Sam about what kind of dog he'd be – but what the hell was he supposed to do with a horse?
"Well," Bobby offered, "on the positive side. I think it's pretty safe to say no one's going to be wanting to possess this Sam any time soon."
Sam whinnied softly, lowered his head and slowly approached his brother. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the kid was looking for some reassurance here but Dean just shook his head, still too in shock to see beyond the fact that his brother was now a piece of livestock.
"I don't understand…" Standing, he stared into the large brown eyes watching him so carefully, as Sam stood just in front of him now. His fingers reached towards his brother, they flexed compulsively, but didn't touch. "Why a horse?"
The old woman was watching Sam with a soft look on her face. "Does it not suit him?" She didn't wait for Dean to answer as she ran gnarled fingers over Sam's muscular shoulders. "Horses are trustworthy, friendly and open-minded." Sam actually flinched at the word 'trustworthy' but Dean didn't say anything, just staring into the dark brown eyes as she continued. "They are intelligent, practical, strong-minded and independent -" Her fingers crept up to scratch behind one of Sam's ears and the horse turned his head into the motion, obviously enjoying the attention. "They are resilient but can be arrogant and obstinate-"
Sam snorted and laid his ears back slightly as he shook his head, his thick mane falling against the other side of his neck with a swish. It made Dean chuckle and he finally reached out and ran careful fingers down his brother's now velvet nose. The horse huffed softly, his large nostrils widening with the motion.
"Well I suppose it is kinda fitting," he finally decided as he took in the large equine. His gaze softened, his mouth twisted in mirth. "I always said you were an ass."
Sam yanked his head up and snorted loudly.
Even Bobby laughed this time as he wheeled himself to the edge of the porch. "C'mere you big idiot," he insisted, his own hand reached out to touch.
Sam stretched out his long neck and closed his eyes as Bobby traced the outline of the white star on his forehead. Dean tugged gently on his mane. "I am so not brushing this for you, dude," he teased, then lifted an eyebrow as his gaze traveled down his brother's broad back and over his hindquarters. "And especially not your tail!"
The horse just swished his long black tail, and nickered softly.
Okay, thought Dean, maybe they could make this work…
Bobby had a large field behind the scrap yard, Sam could stay there. Sure, it'd suck not having his brother with him but at least he knew the kid, er, horse would be safe.
"So, uh, what do horses eat anyway?" Dean asked as the knuckles of his hand continued to rub Sam's nose. The horse in question was standing quietly with his eyes closed as Bobby and Dean spoke around him.
The old Wiccan woman had gone an hour earlier reminding them that her family's debt to Bobby was now paid. She did leave the scrap hauler the key to unlocking the spell once it was no longer needed and Bobby had it already safely tucked away.
"Don't rightly know," Bobby admitted, his eyes warm as he watched the interaction between the brothers. "Hay and oats for sure."
At that Sam balked, his brown eyes opening wide as he snorted and shook his head. Dean grinned at the horse. "What you bitching about? It's not much of a step down from that veggie crap stuff you usually eat." He ran an appraising eye over the large animal and tapped his finger on his chin. "Hmmm… I wonder what kind of horse you are anyway? You're too fat to be a race horse."
Snorting again, the black horse tossed his head and started to back up.
"Hey," Dean was still grinning, horse or no horse, this was definitely his brother. "Where you think you're going?"
Of course Sam couldn't answer. Instead he half reared up on his back legs, neighed loudly then shot away from the house, gravel and sand kicking up in his wake.
"Hey!" Dean yelled. "Sam! Get back here!"
"Dean," Bobby reached out, his hand grabbing his arm before Dean could go after his brother. "Let him be."
"Just give him some time," Bobby's gaze traveled towards where the horse had disappeared. "Sam'll be back. Let's go inside, see what we can find out about looking after him before he gets back."
Dean didn't like it but nodded. "Yeah, okay," he agreed, then reluctantly followed the older man inside.
Fat indeed, he snorted.
His hooves pounded hard against the ground as his body stretched out and he ran. He thought he was handling all this pretty well, all things considered; one minute a man, next an equine. But when they'd started talking about eating hay and oats and then the dig about his very obvious larger than usual size, it'd hit Sam hard exactly what they'd done, what he'd given up. And he'd bolted; the need to escape threading through his powerful body.
His sharper than human hearing followed Dean and Bobby into the house even as he put distance between them, and he was relieved. For one fleeting moment, Sam had been unreasonably terrified his brother was going to come after him. He had no explanation for that brief moment of near hysteria except the possibility that it was a bleed-over of equine instincts; his horse self recognizing his brother for the predator Dean was.
Undoubtedly if this had happened to Dean, Sam was sure his brother would have been a wolf… or a corgi if Mother Nature had any fair sense of justice.
It felt natural to run and as his nostrils flared and his long legs ate up the countryside, Sam felt the tension, fear and doubt slowly start to melt with the gentle slip and glide of muscle over sinew and bone.
His heart was hammering as he jumped a fence, his thick mane and long tail flying out behind him. The world slid by in muted color, strangely distorted but vaguely comforting, no longer as nauseating as it had first been when he'd opened his eyes and saw through a horse's eyes.
The difference in his senses, his hearing enhanced, his visual acuity decreased, had left the hunter reeling and feeling sick when he'd first been changed. The Wiccan woman had been wise in ensuring his privacy during those first few moments of disorientation and panic but then his instinctive need to see Dean, to be comforted and accepted by the most important person in his world, had Sam pushing past his own anxiety and discomfort in his need to see his brother.
And then Dean had held back, his brother's momentary shock as painful as rejection –
Sam shook his head and slowed down to a canter and then a walk, deciding he should probably head back before Dean really started to worry. He couldn't really blame his brother for his reaction but still, this had been Dean's idea.
He snorted loudly and swished his tail over his broad back.
"I dunno, Dean, man…" Sam was hesitant. His brother couldn't possibly be serious, could he?
"C'mon, Sam, we're running out of options here. That crap with Gary was way too close, dude. A few more minutes and you'd have been Marty McFly for life… I don't know what else to do. We have to try this."
Sam chewed his lip quietly. He really did not want to do it. Finding some witch to do a transformation spell in the hopes that Lucifer wouldn't find Sam's new body so appealing? He shivered and closed his eyes, not exactly one of their better plans. Damn Dean and his beer induced epiphany.
They were standing outside Bobby's house and could hear the older man inside banging around, his opinion of this idea very well known. He thought it was idiotic, even if he did begrudgingly admit it might work; at least for a little while. Bobby wasn't completely convinced Lucifer couldn't just turn Sam back or that this wouldn't somehow backfire on them.
Oh boy, if only they knew, Sam thought bitterly. His ears twitched as he heard the soft rustling of the leaves on the trees overhead.
Dean stood beside Sam and stared out over the yard, he nudged Sam's shoulder. "I won't let anything bad happen to you, Sam, I promise."
"You want me to be a dog, Dean," Sam stated softly, "that might be considered as bad."
His brother stiffened briefly then shrugged letting out a weary sigh. "Fine. Whatever." His voice sounded so tired, it hurt to hear. Dean turned to leave, his footsteps leaden on the wooden porch. "If that's how you feel... I'm going inside."
Sam closed his eyes when they stung. It was him who put that weight in his brother's steps and the weariness in Dean's voice. "Okay," he said, his shoulders dropping in resignation. "Okay. I'll do it."
Dean quickly turned, a relieved smile already on his face, "That's great, Sam, I'll have Bobby make the call." And then he was gone, and if Sam was disappointed that his brother never even offered him an 'are you sure?' he never let it show. Instead he sucked it up, buried his own emotions and put on a brave face. He was doing this for Dean.
The smell of something sweet had Sam stopping and inhaling deeply. His stomach rumbled and his head was already lowering before he realized what it was: grass. Sam could never remember grass smelling so good. It was sweet, like nectar, and he couldn't resist. He did however take a quick look around, then listen hard just in case someone saw before he took a small bite.
His head jerked up in surprise. Oh my indeed. This stuff was wonderful!
Snuffling happily, Sam tore at the grass and munched loudly. Divine. Absolutely divine… He had no idea how long he grazed but when a quick darting rabbit startled him and he reared back, he was surprised to realize it was now almost dark.
Crap. Dean had to be freaking.
Breaking into a trot, Sam headed back towards Bobby's, wondering how the heck he was going to console his brother…
Just as he suspected, Dean was furious.
"Sam, where the hell have you been?" His brother was down the steps and running towards Sam before the horse was much more than in sight of the house.
Sam lowered his head and whinnied softly, trying to convey an apology but Dean was furious. "Do you have any idea how worried I- Bobby was?"
The older man wheeled his way to the doorway and watched, Sam couldn't make out the expression on his face but he heard Bobby muttering about 'idjits' and 'damn fools' under his breath and Sam would have winced if he could have.
"Jesus Christ, Sam!" Dean was still going. "What were you thinking?"
Pushing his nose against Dean's jacket, Sam gently butted at his brother's shoulder and snorted. Sorry, bro, just lost track of time…
"You weren't, that's the problem." Dean tried to push Sam's nose away but the horse shook his head, using his velvety lips to graze up the side of his brother's neck, knowing how ticklish Dean was. "Hey," his brother shivered and reached up to tug at Sam's mane. "None of that. You're a horse, dude, not gay."
Not gay, you idiot, Sam tried to roll his eyes but ended up shaking his head again. Just sorry. And this time when he snorted, it was loud and with enough force that it made Dean step back. From behind them Bobby chuckled.
Dean glared at him but the heat was lost on Sam as his brother's fingers started to scratch lightly at his cheek. Oh, Heaven. The horse closed his eyes and tipped his head in against the touch. "Geez, Sammy, emo much?" He continued to scratch for a few more minutes and then sighed. Sam opened his eyes to look at him. "We have a big problem, dude."
No shit, Sherlock. Sam thought even as he nudged at Dean's hand when his brother stopped moving his fingers.
"I mean more than the obvious, you big girl," Dean chuckled and resumed the stroking. "Bobby doesn't have a barn and you're too big for the car or the house…" Sam followed Dean's line of sight as the hunter turned towards the large field next to Bobby's house. When they were kids, he and Dean spent hours playing hide and seek in the long grass whenever they visited. "You're going to have to sleep outside, bro."
Sam jerked back, his eyes going wide. Sleep outside? The actual logistics of this hadn't really hit him yet and he stared, first at the empty – lonely – field and then at the house where Bobby and Dean would be sleeping. Oh man. He lowered his head and sighed. This sucked.
Dean was right of course. Sam didn't have to like it but there was nothing he could do, although he did not relish the idea of standing out here all night. By himself. This transformation was supposed to be about keeping him safe not isolated.
Oh well, he decided glumly and started to drag his body towards the field, nothing to be done about it now.
"Sammy," he heard Dean following him, his brother's hand rested against his side as he walked beside Sam. "I'm sorry, bro. Guess we didn't think this through good enough, huh? Who would have thought a horse though? I was positive you were going to be a dog, for sure."
Sam stopped walking when he got to the gate and waited for Dean to open it. His brother hesitated a moment then turned towards Sam, his face as serious as he'd ever seen it. "This won't be for long, Sam. I promise."
Sensing Dean's guilt, Sam nickered softly then tapped at the gate with a front hoof. Might as well get this over with, he figured hoping to let Dean know that it was okay. He was fine with it. He wasn't really but in the scheme of things, sleeping outside by himself wasn't a big deal. Not when compared to being tormented into submission by Lucifer.
A little inconvenience and anxiousness versus the damnation of the world?
No contest, Sam would sleep in the middle of a freezing cold river if it came to it.
Dean opened the gate and waited until Sam had passed through it before closing it again and making sure the latch was in place. And as much as Sam hated the idea of being penned in, it did make him feel a bit safer.
Turning back to his brother, Sam hung his head over the fence and waited for Dean to go back to the house but the older man didn't leave right away. Instead Dean climbed up to sit on the fence, easily balancing himself and watching Sam.
"Hey, you remember when we were kids and Dad took us to that fair outside Tulsa?"
Sam blinked in surprised. Random. He nodded his head. Oh yeah, he remembered. He'd eaten so much cotton candy that day it made him sick; Dean rode the rides until he puked and they both ended up green faced and groaning in the back seat of the Impala.
"Man, I puked up my sneakers that day," Dean grinned then chuckled out loud. "I never thought dad was going to stop laughing when he saw us with our heads in that garbage container."
Or let us live it down, Sam silently added, remembering how their father would tease them about it every time they passed a country fair.
His brother gazed out over the field, his voice suddenly soft. "They had horses there."
Sam tilted his head searching his memory for more detail. Yeah, they did… for a buck you could ride one. He and Dean had spent about a half an hour watching as other children paid their dollar and took their turns.
"Man, I really wanted a turn, you know?"
No, actually Sam didn't. He recalled asking Dean if they were going to go for a ride but Dean had refused telling him riding horses was for girls and dragged him away to buy more cotton candy…
Sam nudged at his brother's leg.
"Yeah, I know, I pretended I didn't want to 'cause I didn't want you knowing I was scared."
Scared? Sam gave his head a little shake. Of what? he wanted to ask.
Dean ran light fingers down Sam's nose, stopping to scratch between his nostrils. His brother definitely had magic fingers. "Scared of horses… and now look at me. My brother is a horse." The hunter snorted softly. "I think Mother Nature has a sense of humor."
His brother was afraid of horses? Sam hadn't known that…
"Thank God, it wasn't me who got changed 'cause with our luck, she'd have made me a clown."
Sam's eyes widened and he involuntarily took a step back.
Dean laughed, grabbed at his long mane and tugged at him. "Whoa, pony boy. Hold up. Geez, Sam, skittish much?"
That earned him a loud snort.
"Look I hate to do this but me and Bobby got to go into town in the morning. We need to pick some things up, for you," Dean added as he released Sam's hair and sat back on the fence, both hands on the railings now for balance. "Apparently horses need oats, maybe some apples or something."
Oats? That sounded good. Human Sam did like oatmeal. Ooh, apples! He smacked his lips in anticipation.
"We won't be gone long though. Just a quick in and out."
Sounds like one of Dean's dates, Sam nickered.
His brother gave him an odd look. "Dude, are you laughing at me?"
Sam blinked in innocence.
Dean shook his head and moved to jump off the fence. "Deny it all you want, bro, horse or not, I know you. And your lame ass sense of humor."
Brushing off his pants, the older hunter glanced at the house then back to Sam. "I hate to leave you out here-"
Sam wasn't keen on being left either but there was no choice, although he knew his brother would sleep out here with him if Sam wanted him too. And while it warmed his heart, it was only March, the nights still cold, so… with a playful push at the man, Sam bobbed his head towards the house. Go on, Dean, I'll be okay.
Dean mock glared at him. "Okay, okay, I'm going. Man, you are one pushy horse." With one final pat on Sam's nose and a "Night, Sammy," Dean slowly moved away from the fence.
Sam watched Dean all the way into the house, his ears pricked up and faced forward to catch snippets of conversation between the two men as they talked for a while before calling it a night. He stayed that way until the last light was turned off and the house was dark. Only then did he move away from the fence.
It was going to be a long night.